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Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah
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Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah

4.3 4
by Tom Chaffin
 

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Assembled from hundreds of original documents, including intimate shipboard journals kept by Shenandoah officers, Sea of Gray is a masterful narrative of men at sea

The sleek, 222-foot, black auxiliary steamer Sea King left London on October 8, 1864, ostensibly bound for Bombay. The subterfuge was ended off the shores of Madeira, where

Overview

Assembled from hundreds of original documents, including intimate shipboard journals kept by Shenandoah officers, Sea of Gray is a masterful narrative of men at sea

The sleek, 222-foot, black auxiliary steamer Sea King left London on October 8, 1864, ostensibly bound for Bombay. The subterfuge was ended off the shores of Madeira, where the ship was outfitted for war. The newly christened CSS Shenandoah then commenced the last, most quixotic sea story of the Civil War: the 58,000-mile, around-the-world cruise of the Confederacy's second most successful commerce raider. Before its voyage was over, thirty-two Union merchant and whaling ships and their cargoes would be destroyed. But it was only after ship and crew embarked on the last leg of their journey that the excursion took its most fearful turn.

Four months after the Civil War was over, the Shenandoah's Captain Waddell finally learned he was, and had been, fighting without cause or state. In the eyes of the world, he had gone from being an enemy combatant to being a pirate—a hangable offense. Now fearing capture and mutiny, with supplies quickly dwindling, Waddell elected to camouflage the ship, circumnavigate the globe, and attempt to surrender on English soil.

"A superb account of how the Confederate raider Shenandoah brought the American Civil War to the farthest reaches of the world." -- Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Mayflower and Sea of Glory

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“An intriguing Civil War story and a bracing nautical yarn.” —Michael Kenney, The Boston Globe

“Chaffin delivers a crackerjack story. He writes with authority and a clear passion for the colorful, fated characters of this truelife bluewater saga.” —Philip Gerard, The News and Observer

"Chaffin has drawn from a rich array of primary sources, including shipboard journals, crew memoirs, and newspaper accounts, to tell the story of the raider's 58,000-mile journey .... A brisk and engaging read." ---Elizabeth D. Hoover, American Heritage

Publishers Weekly
When the Union navy blockaded Southern ports during the Civil War, the Confederates dispatched commercial raiders to prey on private Union ships. One of these raiders was the C.S.S. Shenandoah, a British auxiliary steamer purchased by Confederate agents and refitted as a man-of-war. Chaffin (Pathfinder; Fatal Glory) recounts the Shenandoah's round-the-world journey in a compelling narrative based upon Civil War-era logbooks, journals, letters and memoirs. Commissioned to lay waste to New England's Pacific whaling fleet, the Shenandoah sailed from Liverpool in 1864. Thirteen months and 58,000 miles later, it sailed back. Along the way, the ship survived storms, ice jams and a near mutiny while capturing 40 Union vessels, taking 1,053 prisoners and destroying cargo valued in 1865 at $1.4 million. En route to the Bering Sea when the war ended in April 1865, the Shenandoah continued to fight until June for lack of " `reliable evidence.' " Thereafter, it dodged capture as it raced for the safety of a British port. Sure to satisfy Civil War and nautical fans, Chaffin's history describes these adventures in gratifying detail. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A true-life adventure: how The Sea King left Liverpool, became the CSS Shenandoah, sank 34 Union ships, and once the Civil War ended was branded a pirate ship, with the crew fleeing `round the world in search of a safe haven. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A saga of secessionists on the high seas, causing mayhem wherever they wandered. The Shenandoah began life as a Scottish commercial vessel called the Sea King, but, as Chaffin (Pathfinder, 2002) notes, became one of the finest ships in the Confederate navy. Acquired in October 1864-instrumental in the acquisition was Theodore Roosevelt's uncle, a Georgian named James Bulloch, who later "played a major role in convincing the future U.S. president of the priority of attaining global naval superiority for America"-the Shenandoah was technologically advanced, with a screw propeller as well as tall sails. Commanded by James Waddell, it was also, technically, a privateer, a pirate ship with a letter of marque. Privateering was by then out of favor among the European powers, but the U.S. government had refused to sign a treaty banning it (think Kyoto Protocol), a decision that would haunt Yankee sailors when the Shenandoah circumnavigated the globe, sank 34 Union vessels and seized cargoes worth more than $1.4 million. The captain's loyalties remained so strong, Chaffin writes, that the ship went on attacking Union vessels even after Lee surrendered at Appomattox, when it dawned on Waddell, then off the Siberian coast, that he'd better get ship and crew back to the more or less friendly waters of England before the Yankees caught up. Chaffin does a good job of charting the Shenandoah's path and fortunes, and though the narrative could have stood a little trimming here and there, he makes it clear that there were plenty of worse places to be in the war than on the ship's decks; the officers had time to read the many books they liberated from enemy vessels, while the crew, for all its rebelorthodoxy, merrily disported themselves among the dark women of Ascension, unrepentant pirates to the last. Good reading for Civil War buffs, taking the naval aspect of the conflict well beyond the usual Monitor and Merrimac fare.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780809085040
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
06/12/2007
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
513,696
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Sea of Gray

The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah
By Chaffin, Tom

Hill and Wang

Copyright © 2006 Chaffin, Tom
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0809095114

Excerpted from Sea of Gray by Tom Chaffin. Copyright © 2006 by Tom Chaffin. Published February 2006 by Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.
One

Of Ice Floes and Arctic Fires

It was just past 1:00 a.m., June 28, 1865, a few tilting spins of the earth beyond the year's longest day. And in the Bering Strait the hazy summer dawn breaking over the blue-white ice floes crowding its waters revealed a curious tableau: framed by the dark, distant, snow-crowned headlands to the east and west and, at a lower elevation, the two flat- and sheer-sided Diomede Islands tucked between those mainland heights, rose a forest of masts, sails, and rigging. Closer inspection revealed a listing three-masted whaleship. Moored to it by a web of radiating ropes bobbed five smaller vessels, the thirty-five-foot whaleboats that, on better days, the whaleship dispatched to harpoon the bowhead whales that brought white men to these remote climes. And, completing the scene, forming its outer perimeter, nine other whaling vessels swung at anchor in the eerily calm waters of this 37° F cloudless Arctic morning.

A day earlier the winds thatoften slice through this storied icy gut dividing North America and Asia had roiled those waters; swells had blown the Brunswick--the now-listing ship from New Bedford, Massachusetts--against one of the ice floes. During the summer these chunks of ice drift northward from the Pacific to the Arctic through this fifty-mile-wide passage between Siberia's western and Alaska's eastern shores.

The collision stove a hole below the Brunswick's waterline, breaching the wooden planking and the copper-alloy sheathing of her hull. Afterward the ship's officers and crew had done their best to still the rush of seawater into the ship's holds. But the ship's master, Alden T. Potter, knew that, with more than a thousand miles of water between them and the nearest shipyard, he and his crew had little hope of repairing the vessel. In the meantime, all he could do was what American captains had always done in such situations: raise Old Glory upside down to signal their distress to any ships that might sail by.

This being a busy passage in a busy whaling season, nine other vessels, all flying the U.S. flag, soon lay anchored along side the crippled Brunswick.



Continues...

Excerpted from Sea of Gray by Chaffin, Tom Copyright © 2006 by Chaffin, Tom. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Tom Chaffin is the author of Pathfinder: John Charles Frémont and the Course of American Empire (H&W, 2002). His work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper's, Time, and other publications. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chaffin has clearly researched the activities of the CSS Shenandoah. However, he relates this history with a decidedly northern slant. This book falls into the ranks of other yankee publications that combine fact and opinion to reflect negatively on southern war efforts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you read the first review back in 2009 youbwould believe that everything is the norths fault with the civil war.when slaver is wrong. When people do wrong they are wrong where everthey live.deal with facts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed every page in this book. From the 'Cloak and Dagger' exploits to aquire the ship and the recruiting and gathering of the crew. It put a very human face on all of the characters and made no apologies for thier faults and quirks. High adventure on the seas around the world...a must read for Civil War collectors and buffs!